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Pinilla, Miguel de (unknown–unknown)

Donald E. Chipman Biography

Miguel de Pinilla was a Franciscan attached to the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro. In Texas he was part of the contingent that founded three missions on the San Gabriel River near the site of present Rockdale. Pinilla, of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Mission, was one of five clerics who welcomed Capt. Felipe de Rábago y Terán as presidial commander in December 1751. At that time, Father Pinilla also served as chaplain of the military garrison. Relations between Rábago and Pinilla deteriorated almost immediately. En route to the San Gabriel outpost, Rábago had entered into an adulterous relationship with the wife of a man (Juan José Ceballos) recruited in San Antonio. When Pinilla attempted to intervene, matters worsened. Rábago began offering rewards to his soldiers for procuring the wives and daughters of the missions' neophytes. And when Pinilla protested this transgression and others committed by Rábago's soldiers, the captain barred Pinilla from ministering as chaplain. The cleric responded by excommunicating the personnel of the garrison. Although excommunication was soon lifted, strained relations between Rábago and the missionaries soon progressed toward violence. In May 1752 at Candelaria Mission, Ceballos and Father Juan José de Ganzabal were both shot to death in the presence of Father Pinilla. Officially, the murders were blamed on Coco Indians who had fled the missions. Pinilla traveled to San Antonio to report the deaths. In the ensuing investigation, Rábago's complicity in the murders became increasingly evident. However, an eight-year inquest finally dismissed all charges.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Gary B. Starnes, The San Gabriel Missions, 1746–1756 (Madrid: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1969). Robert S. Weddle, The San Sabá Mission (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964).


  • Religion
  • Catholic

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Donald E. Chipman, “Pinilla, Miguel de,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 01, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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